How 'Better Call Saul' Is The Only Prequel Getting Things Right
After the anxiety factory that was last week’s Better Call Saul, the most recent episode, “Hit and Run,” pumped the brakes slightly – although we still got some great scenes; Kim meeting Mike for the first time (and recognizing him as the former cranky pants courthouse parking lot attendant), Gus’ Batcave-like underground tunnel to a neighboring spy house, and of course, the return of Spooge – AKA the dude who gets crushed to death by an ATM in Breaking Bad.
It’s becoming more and more apparent in its final season that Better Call Saul is simply one of the best prequels of all-time. Obviously we’ve been inundated with pop-culture prequels over the past several decades, and they’ve mostly been pretty goddamn disappointing; Star Wars, The Hobbit, and lest we forget about whatever the hell is going on with the Harry Potter franchise. But Better Call Saul doesn’t eschew the conventions of the prequel, it finds ways to make them work organically, within the world of the show.
The most on-the-nose “prequel” moment was probably when Jimmy McGill first obtains Saul’s pinky ring; on Breaking Bad, the ring was seemingly just another example of Saul’s garish taste, but in the first season of Better Call Saul, we see that it once belonged to Marco, his deceased friend, and former grifting partner.
Imbuing what was just a throwaway bit of tacky flare with a loaded emotional backstory is a tad retroactively hard-to-swallow; a little like seeing Indiana Jones acquire his trademark fedora, whip, and fear of snakes all in the span of, like, 20 minutes one morning at the beginning of The Last Crusade. But every other time Jimmy has gained a chunk of recognizable Saul-ness, it has worked so much better than comparable scenes in other contemporary prequels. Remember how the world collectively rolled its eyes when Han Solo randomly got his surname from some space TSA agent in Solo?
In Better Call Saul, on the other hand, Jimmy’s creation of the Saul Goodman name (which is only slightly more ridiculous than “Solo”) makes complete sense; he started using it for a side-hustle, became known in criminal circles as Saul, and eventually practiced law under that name in order to capitalize on his newfound notoriety (while also symbolically shedding the baggage of the name he shared with his brother).
And this season, we’ve already seen two major pieces of Saul Goodman iconography begin to fall into place, like the inflatable Statue of Liberty that sits atop of his office in Breaking Bad, which he first spies at the Kettlemans' bank/fraudmobile.
Now finally, at the end of this week’s episode, Jimmy/Saul has finally finds the office itself – basically the Millennium Falcon of the Saul-verse – where he first meets Walt and Jesse in Breaking Bad, inadvertently securing his future as the world’s most paranoid Cinnabon manager.
And, again, this was motivated entirely by necessity, and it took literal years of logical progression to get here – it wasn’t just a random whim or a crazy coincidence. We didn’t learn that, say, this strip mall was inexplicably built by Saul’s father when he was a child.
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Top Image: AMC